Me: Hi, first I would like to thank you for taking the time to take this interview with me.
Mark: It’s a pleasure, and as far as I can see it there has been a lot of rumors going around and perhaps this interview might settle some down.
Me: Agreed, so what is Panovation Studios anyway?
Mark: That is a tricky question, but it focuses more on gaming development, and software technologies than any other thing.
Me: You mean like console games?
Mark: Yes. Console, PC, Cellular, Handheld and other.
Me: That sounds great! There has been a real hype about a Sonic game at the Sega forums, is there any chance this is real? Also the clue that you have left on the website, was that intended for the Sonic game?
Mark: As far as I know it, the clue was just a hint towards what kind of Development Company we are. In the Meta tag it showed certain consoles, and a few that we are interested in but not entirely sure if we want to step into right now. To answer your other question, yes it is true that we are working on a Sonic game but it isn’t a MMORPG like some people would think. Instead it is an Online RPG.
Me: That is outstanding! Could you tell me more about this ORPG?
Mark: I will tell you a little bit about it, only because the website hasn’t been online yet. The ORPG has no name for it yet, but it is codenamed Project Mobius. There is an in-depth storyline which takes place on Mobius and the twin moons. The storyline isn’t focused on the Sonic Adventure series, and to know more about the story you will have to wait and see.
Me: Could you tell me more about the game-play?
Mark: The way you play the game is different then standard MMORPG’s, or ORPG’s out there.
Me: Could you elaborate on this?
Mark: Not yet, sorry.
Me: How will this game be played and not become repetitive?
Mark: One of the big parts about this game is that it isn’t all about leveling up and becoming the strongest. Granted it is something fun to do, though there are so many exciting features that will occupy time with pleasure. There are over 70 mini-games to unlock at Arcades, the Gamegear Plus, and other secret areas. There are many 3D games along side of that such as Sonic Pinball, a very addicting game, side quests / missions, trading, also the trading card game, and the return of Chao raising / battle / racing.
Me: I am speechless, that is a lot of features to include in a game!
Mark: And I haven’t even told you all of it.
Me: Incredible! Mind telling more features?
Mark: Nah, not right now.
Me: Alright, so you say the return of Chao Raising / Battle / Racing, what do you mean?
Mark: We wanted to bring back Chao’s in a new light. We thought that Chao’s had more potential then just being raised and played through a very weak environment so we remade the entire thing, brought in a few new Chao’s, and added plenty new features. The Chao system is far more advanced then what it used to be in Sonic Adventure 2, you can raise your Chao in an entirely new way, you can bring your Chao into battle with you on missions, fight in the battle arena against other players, Race Chao’s and train it.
Me: That is way past cool! Could you elaborate on the training?
Mark: Sure! But first let me talk about the Gamegear Plus. The Gamegear Plus is the idea of how the next generation handhelds will be like (with extra on the side). Games, Communication, Networking and other. One of the features you get in your Gamegear Plus is the ability to communicate with Chao’s, as they can only communicate in certain frequencies. You go around and you find a Training item such as “sit” and you can teach your Chao to sit in a fun process. These items can be very hard to find, but extremely useful when you are in missions, especially single player missions.
Me: Interesting, Missions? Single Player? Is there Multiplayer missions?
Mark: There are many missions that you can go through and a lot of them can be played Solo, Multiplayer, and of course Some require 2 or more players and your Chao can be a great addition to the force. Say there are 2 switches and there only you and your Chao around, you can tell your Chao to stay on the switch assuming that it knows the Stay command, and the door opens!
Me: Cool! Will it be more then just standing on switches and defeating enemies to go through the level like in PSO?
Mark: Yes it will be. The levels are not fully developed right now, however for the ones we have made so far, some are Puzzle, some are Switch / enemy, and some are just destroying things until the very end.
Me: I like the idea of having a mixture of all of these things. In fact it seems that the entire game right now is a mixture of a lot of elements and not just a focus of one.
Mark: That is true; we wanted to make the game appeal to a lot of gamers that are not only Sonic fans but outside of the Sonic fandom.
Me: How are Party’s assembled, and how many members can go in a mission?
Mark: Right now we have 5 party members with the option of 1 Chao per person. Which makes it to be 10 characters at once. However this is not always true. It is possible that the maximum party members will change later on.
Me: Are there guilds in this game?
Mark: We are still deciding about that. Right now you can choose to be either Good or Bad. Either side will take you to different part of the world. Good will make you a Freedom Fighter, and Bad will make you part of Robotropolis. As far as “teams” like in PSO goes, we are still uncertain, however there is an advanced buddy system in this game.
Me: You said the word “Robotropolis” does this mean Robotnik is returning?
Mark: The name “Dr. Eggman” will not be in this game. He will be referred as Dr. Robotnik.
Me: Sweet! I love that!
Me: What about character making? There has been rumors about being able to custom create your own character, and to me it would make more sense then walking as sonic with thousands of other Sonics out there.
Mark: *laughs* Yes, during the pre-alpha testing there we’re many Sonic characters running around while testing the ‘bebop’ engine and it was a funny moment. From the beginning we wanted it to be focused more on community then anything. In fact the original project was codenamed “Social Center”. Characters can be fully customizable, clothes can be tailored / bought / found, and we assume that most people will not make Sonic, or Shadow look-a-like.
Me: That is good news to hear. What kind of Characters could you create? Human? Animal? Robot?
Mark: At the moment it is only Human, and Animal (male, female) characters. It is possible that one day Robot characters could be made but it isn’t in our agenda at the moment, and yes, we have thought of it.
Me: Is it true that people can make their own houses like some people suggested?
Mark: As interesting on how people would know that, it is true. You can have your very own house, rent a house / apartment, and fully customize the interior. This leaves room for your very own custom Chao garden if you would like in the house, and of course you can keep more than just one Chao at a time.
Me: How many Chao’s can someone have at the same time?
Mark: Right now it depends on the size of the house. It will also make your Chaos become very angry at each other if they are over crowded.
Me: You reminded me of how Chao’s interact in SA1 and SA2, will there be any interaction in this game?
Mark: Yes, in fact the engine is far superior then before. Chao’s have a mind of their own and it all depends on how it is raised. You can have a Dark Chao and it just might steal things from you depending how well you raise it, and this could be a very good feature or very bad depending on how you play the game. A Chao will be a true virtual pet, and no matter where you are, you can still take care of it even if it isn’t with you.
Me: Cool! How is the world like? Is it big?
Mark: It isn’t that big right at this moment, but it will cover the entire planet Mobius one day. There is such beauty to this game where ever you go.
Me: How will the music be like compared to the previous Sonic Games?
Mark: The music will not be like the crazy 80’s style music which was seen in Sonic Adventure, Adventure 2, and Heroes. There are a lot of sound tracks at the moment, and there will be plenty more. The return of classic Sonic tunes in a new remix / remake form will have its occasional occurrence, and we love to stay true to the original Sonic.
Me: You said you like to stay true to the original Sonic, how come?
Mark: The staff was carefully selected and everybody who works here has to have a background about “fandom” in Sonic the Hedgehog. It makes this game far better when there are true fans working on this project instead of people who has barely played the previous Sonic Game. All of the game stays true to how sonic used to be.
Me: If there are people out there that say that a Sonic ORPG is not right, what would you say to them?
Mark: On the contrary, the world of Sonic the Hedgehog is entirely meant for Role Playing if you do it right. We have planned a long time to make sure that this is the right choice, and the right game play. The only way that you will be able to find out if it is fun or not, is to actually play the game and not assume it will be boring.
Me: There has been the talk that this entire project isn’t an official project, and what is going on with this?
Mark: Being given the Okay to go on with this project well over a year ago was a big honor. It all began with a big idea to attract more people into the Sonic world and soon turned into a massive project. I assure you this is all legit, and we are good friends with Sega, however they are more familiar with the company Blue Hedgehog Network, LLP. Than the recent change to Panovation Studios.
Me: So it is true that The Blue Hedgehog Network is working on this, wasn’t it a fan site before?
Mark: At one time I was making a Sonic fan site in my spare time to get better interest and familiarity with Sonic. It was called “The Blue Hedgehog” at the time, and since I liked the name so much when we were stationed for the project, we called it “The Blue Hedgehog Network”.
Me: So your saying that The Blue Hedgehog was a fan site, and since you liked the name you canceled the website so you could have the name “The Blue Hedgehog Network”?
Mark: Pretty much so.
Me: I like it, so is there any chance that another Sonic site like it would come back?
Mark: I will hint to you that there is something entirely new with this concept.
Me: Could you tell me please?
Mark: You will have to wait and see when the Panovation website launches.
Me: Speaking of Panovation website, what is the deal with the delays?
Mark: I understand you completely. The fault rests all into the website programmer’s fault, and quite frankly, I regret having him program the website. Before e3 he spent his time lollygagging on the website and said he would have it released by the 12th. All was fine until the 12th and that is when he had to remake the entire website because his lack of attention made him do a very bad programming error on the website. The second delay was because he lollygagged once again. By this time I should of took action, but I gave a third chance. On the third chance he took the website and ran away after he broke up with his girlfriend. I and others couldn’t find him or contact him, so until this day we are out of a website, but the design is still here. On Tuesday actions will take place and hopefully we will get the website running like it should have been by the end of the week.
Me: Ouch! That sucks! I can understand completely how that must hurt since you do already seem to have a large fan base, and promises were broken only because of one guy who didn’t do his job properly. I would fire him if I were you.
Mark: It isn’t a great feeling.
Me: What other projects do you have going on?
Mark: There are a lot of other projects and including a few new gaming franchises. One of them you have probably noticed is called “Pinchy”. The first game will release for the Nintendo DS called “Pinchy’s AdventChores”. Any other games, software, and technology will all be revealed on the launch of the website.
Me: Cool, I like the name of Pinchy. Is he a lobster?
Mark: Not really. It will really make you think, and later on I will show you a screenshot of the website so you could all enjoy, and Pinchy will be located on the website. You can guess all you want on what he is though.
Me: Cool! You just said screenshot of the website? Where!? I want to see it!!!
Mark: In due time… When the interview is completed.
Me: Awww! You really like to tease people don’t you?
Mark: Tease? Me? Nah… Never happened before! *cough*
Me: I am running out of questions but will ask you one last question which I just thought of. What console will Project Mobius be released on?
Mark: At the moment it is scheduled only for PC / MAC, but we are debating if we would like to release it on a console as well.
Me: Cool! Sorry, but I have one more question on this. How much will it cost for monthly fee?
Mark: The servers cost a lot of money, and so does production cost. So we estimate the monthly fee to be Free of charge, and the game would also be a free download.
Me: FREE???!?? How in the world can you guys afford this?
Mark: Panovation Studios is all about doing something new and interesting. The answer to that will be revealed at a later time.
Me: Alright, it has been a real blast to have an interview with you, and thank you so much for taking the time to download an instant messenger service just so we can do this.
Mark: It was my pleasure. In fact I was interested on how in the world people got information about Panovation Studios when we haven’t even talked about it outside the system. Getting an interview request was beyond my expectations for now.
Me: When I first found out about you guys it was either at the G4 forums, or Nintendo Forums.
Mark: I believe it was Google who found our website and the meta tags attracted a lot of attention. Either way, it has all ended well.
Me: It has, and thank you again and good luck with all of the projects, and I cannot wait until the website releases!
Mark: Thank you, and be prepared for a new era of games.